Heart with no heartbeat

NPR had an interesting story on a new type of artificial heart. Older models had tried to replicate the human heart with its pumping mechanism but have been unable to create models that work without problems for a long time.

This new heart is radically different in that it foregoes the pumping action and has motors that continuously drive blood through the body. This makes for a much simpler design with less chance of breakdown. It seems as if the pumping action is not essential for the working of the body, though it is still early days and we do not have long-term data on the effects.

If the results hold up and a heart that beats is not really necessary, it means that the beating heart is a product of evolution that is functional but not optimal. This would illustrate once again that the processes of evolution do not necessarily produce the best design but merely a design that works. This will not be the first time that thinking that nature’s design is the best and trying to copy it has sent us in the wrong direction. Early experiments with flight tried to emulate the flapping wing action of birds with little luck.

What is kind of weird is that with this new artificial heart, there will be no heartbeat, no pulse, and the EKG signal will be a flat line. So the most common markers we currently use to see if someone is dead or alive would indicate that the person is dead.

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